British Council Creative Economy

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10 July 2014

The Changing Face of Digital London

London has long been considered a leading knowledge city but something new has been bubbling up under its creative surface, fuelling an ecosystem that attracts global attention from the likes of Google and Facebook...

...It's down to digital. At least that's what Emily Memarzia, digital dealer, artist and co-founder at Memarzia, thinks. In advance of the YCE trend Safari tour this week, she introduces us to some of London's best tech movers and shakers...

London’s rapid and recent acceleration into a major tech hub began– as our YCE Trend Safari this week also will – in Tech City. The area which spans Shoreditch, Old Street and Clerkenwell, is home to more than 15,000 new businesses and holds its reputation as the UK's leading technology hub. 

Our expedition will take us on a journey from concept through to commercialisation and on again, to international success. We'll commence at Tech Hub: a pillar of the local entrepreneurial community and international shared workspace where the seed of an idea is nurtured into a sturdy startup. Next we will pop by one of Shoreditch’s most notable high growth studios MakieLab: creators of the 3D printed, game-enabled, customisable dolls that have since been sold in Selfridges and Hamley's. And then onto Inition, the established and reputable immersive and augmented reality agency behind Topshop’s pioneering Oculus Rift experience at this year’s London Fashion Week. On our way we will visit Hackney Council’s pop-up venue Bl_nk: an investment hub, event and exhibition space that showcases digital installations made by local entrepreneurs. The final sojourn on our excursion will be at Boxpark, whose vision to create a ‘community of brands’ has revolutionised the archetypes of traditional retail, with a low-cost shopping mall made up entirely of shipping containers. 

London is by no means a single cluster of digital success but a rich patchwork of entrepreneurial communities spanning the cityscape. The next stop on the tech tube map takes us to Makerversity in Somerset House: a shared workspace with the only stipulation that its cohort of creative startups ‘make things - be they digital, physical or anything in between.’ Here we will also meet with Crowdrooster: a new social store and iteration platform for hardware, the internet of things and wearable products. Finally, we will visit the vault of The Unseen: a young yet renowned couture chemistry house that weaves tech magic into futuristic fabrics such as reactive materials that respond to wind, digital stimulus and carbon emissions - all currently featured in the Barbican’s Digital Revolution exhibition.

Recent predictions reveal that within the next five years, tech will overthrow financial services as the growth engine of London’s economy. We hope that this trend safari tour will provide key insights into the makings and minds of the most gifted dreamers, doers and dynamos driving these exciting developments. 

Emily Memarzia